|41 - Third Sunday After Pentecost, June 13, 2010|
Over the last two Sundays, we commemorated all the saints of the Church. This, together with the Church’s practice of dedicating each day of the year to the memory of the saints, reminds us that the Church raises her faithful up into the mystery of Pentecost in which the faithful are sanctified by the Holy Spirit and made “saints”: men and women in whom Christ lives as when He lived in the flesh and dwelt among us, saints in whom God rests as in a sacred temple. When we read the Scriptures in this “Pentecostal” context, the words of Scripture roll back like a curtain; we begin to see a holy light shining behind their literal meaning that reveals a spiritual reality hiding in them. It is the reality of the Holy Spirit in whom the present moment of space-time is always opening like a gate onto the eternal Today of the mysteries of Christ, which unite the present moment and every moment of space-time to the beginning and the end of creation.
For example, when in this “Pentecostal” context we read in this morning’s Gospel about God clothing our bodies, we don’t see the clothes hanging in our closet. We see the baptismal Robe of Light. And when we read about food and drink, we don’t see the food and drink we find on the shelves of the local grocery store. We see the Living Bread and the Living Cup of Holy Eucharist that come down from Heaven as the Fruit of Immortality growing from the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden.
And so, when in this “Pentecostal” context we hear the Lord admonishing us not to worry about what we will eat, or what we will drink, or what we will wear as do the “nations” of the world, but to seek first the Kingdom of God and its Righteousness, we do not hear Him telling us that He will give us the food and drink and clothing that come from the marketplace. We hear Him telling us that He will clothe us with the Robe of Light as children of God born from above, transformed to become partakers of the divine nature in the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God the Father, the communion of the Holy Spirit.
Seeing these spiritual mysteries hiding behind the letter of this morning’s Gospel, we are reminded that the Christian Faith is so much more profound than most all of us can imagine. The Christian Faith proclaims Jesus Christ the Son of God who is the real principle, the real Light of the world, and whose Holy Spirit is the real life of the world, but which no one knows or can know apart from God Himself, because it was hidden in God from the ages, from the foundation of the world, until it was revealed and became manifest in the sacred mystery of Jesus Christ
To embrace the Christian Faith as it really is, is to lay hold of a mystical gate that opens onto the Spirit of Christ who is in the world but not of the world. The Church gives us the commandments of Christ to wear as a spiritual Robe of Light that is hidden to the profane eyes of the world; but it illumines the faithful from within with the light of the knowledge of God. The Church gives us to eat from the Living Bread that comes down from heaven, and to drink from the Living Cup, hidden to the profane eyes of the world as ordinary bread and wine, but known in the experience of the faithful as the body and blood of Christ who is ever eaten, yet never consumed, distributing Himself wholly to each one of the faithful and uniting them into His one life-giving body; making holy and spiritual those who partake of Him with faith and love in the fear of God, making them one with each other in the communion of His saints in whom He loves to dwell through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ in the love of God the Father and in the communion of the Holy Spirit.
This brings us, then, to the eye that is the lamp of the body. I think it noteworthy that the Savior does not speak of eyes but of one eye. He might be talking about how the eyes of the body, though two, do not look at two things at once; they focus together on one thing. Double vision is a malady that one seeks to correct. But, I think it more likely that the Savior is referring to the inner, hidden eye of the “heart”.
This is not the physical heart but a spiritual organ that is centered in the region of the heart, where our will and our desire originate. Other than “heart”, of course, it is called the Orthodox Faith: the “image of God”, the “spirit” that is in a man, the “secret heart”, and in our Orthodox spiritual Tradition, codified in the Philokalia, for example, it is called “nous”, which is translated as “intellect.” It is set before us in the liturgical imagery of the Church as the Garden of Eden, the womb of the Theotokos, the Cave of Bethlehem, the tomb of Pascha. As the Garden of Eden, it is what we have been expelled from, which tells us that we live in this world outside of ourselves, outside our heart. We are tragically fragmented, separated deep within ourselves from the root of our nature, which is the erotic yearning to be united with God. For, we have united ourselves to the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life and we have become enslaved to the cycle of life and death, a cycle that is rooted not in God but in the dark abyss of nothingness from out of which God called us into being.
The Garden of Eden is what the Cave of Bethlehem opens onto – so the liturgical texts of Christmas tell us – and the Church on Christmas shows to us the sacred mystery of Christ coming forth into the manger of our hearts and filling it with His divine light in the ineffable mystery of the Virgin Birth. The Cave of Bethlehem is perhaps the antechamber of our heart; and the angels of God are calling us to come to it, as they called the shepherds. By these images, we see that the spiritual organ of our heart as the Cave of Bethlehem that opens onto Eden is the immediate destination of the “better and changeless” path we stepped onto when we were raised up from the waters of our baptism.
The heart, so says the Proverb (4:23) is the font from which the springs of life flow. But our heart has become a tomb. We are dead in our trespasses, dead at the root of our being, our heart. It has become filled with a lonely emptiness, a dread boredom, that is so terrifying that we blindly, unconsciously, feverishly devote our whole life’s energy pursuing after the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life in a desperate bid to find meaning. We look for something, someone, anything, anyone to love in the desperate hope that it will fill the tomb of our heart with the eternal love we so profoundly yearn for. Christ, in His love for mankind, ascends the Cross voluntarily to become a life-creating corpse laid in the tomb of Pascha, the tomb of our heart. To die in Christ is to descend into the tomb of our heart and to come upon the terrible joy of the risen Christ coming forth from the tomb of our heart as a Bridegroom from the Bridal Chamber, leading the faithful in procession onto the better and changeless path that ascends to God, clothed no more in the dark robes of death but in the sparkling joy of the Robe of Light, giving us to eat the Living Bread that comes down from Heaven, and to drink the Living Cup as partakers of the divine nature, receiving the Heavenly Spirit as children of God born from above.
The eye that is the lamp of the body, if it is the spiritual organ of the heart, is therefore easily recognized as the mystical organ that is where our will and our desire originate. In repentance, we turn around and we focus the “eye” of our heart on Christ, the Light of the world, and our heart, the lamp of the body, becomes full of light. To seek first the Kingdom of God and its Righteousness, therefore, is to seek Christ, the Image of God in whom we were made. To serve Christ as our Master in singleness of vision is to serve the mystery of divine love for which we yearn down to the roots of our being. To serve the mystery of divine love that has been revealed to us in Christ is receive the gift of His Holy Spirit. And to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit is to be illumined in the eye that is the lamp of our body; it is to be clothed in a Robe of Light, which is Christ Himself, for as many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. To put on Christ is to be taken up into the inner mystery of God that is the real reality of this world. To be taken up into the mystery of God is to be taken up into His divine Light that illumines the darkness of our loneliness with His divine love and raises us up into the communion of the saints in whom God loves to rest in the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ and in the love of God the Father in the communion of the Holy Spirit. Amen.